Recently, I made the bold statement that despite all of the challenges in today’s industry, there is no better time to be a broker. Those challenges come with a rare opportunity — the opportunity to become an indispensable asset to clients and prospects.

At the heart of my message was a challenge for brokers: Stop focusing on yourself and start putting your clients at the center of everything you do. Interspersed throughout my article was a theme: Technology is necessary to meet new challenges and to find success in today’s market.

While my statement may have been bold, it wasn’t necessarily unique — nor was the theme of my article. Mine is simply one voice that contributes to a resounding chorus of industry experts and thought leaders echoing harmonious messages. According to Megan Smith’s article on iamagazine.com, Jorge Jeffrey, director of research at Velocify, says that the companies using technology are the ones experiencing higher profits and more growth, which produces noteworthy differences for them in terms of revenue and productivity. These companies — using their sales, marketing and lead management platforms — experienced “greater revenue growth and more policies per producer — up to 43% more — and also more policies per household.”

Also see: "How to become indespensible."

This is a powerful finding, although not a surprising one from where I sit. According to Zywave’s own research, we know the following:

  • 72% of employers want their brokers to be trusted advisers
  • 75% want regular communication from their brokers
  • 69% want compliance updates and guidance from their brokers
  • 53% want their brokers to provide HR resources

I could go on. But, I’m confident the bottom line is clear: Employers expect more from brokers. With shifting consumer expectations and nearly constant change in the market, is it even reasonable to think that brokers can meet employer demands using only traditional sales and customer service methods? Just as important, is it realistic to assume that an agency can grow and retain its book of business and continue to be successful using only orthodox practices? I’m sure you can guess my answer to both questions.
Technology does not replace the expertise and experience of a broker. Rather, it helps to elevate what the broker can supply to a level that is equal to consumer demand. It enriches brokers’ service offerings, helps make the laborious less demanding, and it turns fruitless efforts into productive ones.  In a post on Agency Nation, Ryan Hanley asks a poignant question, posing a challenge to brokers nearly identical to my own: “Do your customers LOVE doing business with your agency? Or do you force them to do business the way YOU want to do it?” In other words, who is at the center of everything you do—you or your clients?

Also see: "The question that will get a prospect's attention."

Assuming for a moment that a broker has bought into the idea that a client-focused sales and service approach is imperative for continued success, he or she is left with a few options:

  • Do nothing. Acknowledge the need, but go no further.
  • Go it alone. Acknowledge the need, and attempt to meet increasingly complex employer demands through traditional sales and service methods.
  • Team up with a partner. Acknowledge the need, seize the opportunity and harness the power of technology.

My first challenge to brokers was: “Stop focusing on yourself and start putting your clients at the center of everything you do.” My second challenge is for brokers to review the three options listed above and determine which one is more likely and most reasonably going to grow revenue, increase profitability, enhance client relationships, nurture leads and help with differentiating from the competition. The answer to that question is a great starting point for determining what comes next.
O’Brien is the CEO of Zywave, Inc., a leading provider of software solutions for insurance brokers. He has been with Zywave since its inception in the 1990s, helping to create new technology tools that drive profitable results in a dynamic marketplace. Reach him at david.obrien@zywave.com or through www.zywave.com.

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